Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Eurotrip 2010/2011 - Day 3 - Amsterdam

Monday December 20th 2010

A little about my one full day in Amsterdam;
9 am

I woke up bright and early (as usual) to head off to a vintage clothes market that I found while browsing brochures the night before. I was really feeling that early part because I did not have the best sleep last night: the lights in the room were on until well past 2am and being my first time staying in a hostel, I did not know if it was proper hostel etiquette to turn them off before everyone returned for the night. Looking back, I should have just flicked the switch because I don’t think some people made it back that night.

I set out by a little past 9 am in search of the Waterloopein Market. I finally got there a little before 10am and they had not even started setting up, so I axed it from my agenda. En route to my next stop, I passed by the flower market, and they had not started setting up either.
tram tracks

By the time I got to the Van Gogh museum, it was a quarter after 10 and there was already a small line outside. The museum only opened at 10am, but five minutes of waiting in line in Europe is a rarity, so I considered myself lucky.

The museum consists of three floors plus the main floor (permanent collection) and an exhibition addition (changing exhibits). The permanent collection is all about (you guessed it!) Van Gogh and his influences; the likes of Millet, Rembrandt and Monet. Through out the four floors his life is divided into sections by where he was living at the time.

house boats galore
On the main floor, we are given most of the artist’s biography. His tale, being a rather sad tale, is filled with unhappiness from unsuccessful romances and lack of recognition for his talents, illness and finally, suicide. Van Gogh only became an artist at the age of 27 (1880) when he moved to the Netherlands to live with his brother. Up a floor, his works from the Netherlands (1880-1885) are shown. This is the time when he painted the famous collection The Potato Eaters (1885) while was deeply engrossed in showing the simple lives of peasants. We also find his Paris (1886-1888) works, such as Sunflowers (1889), when he turned to using brighter colors, lines and small dots (pointillism). On this floor, there are also many drawings and sketches of his, along with a number of letters from his dedicated correspondence with his brother Theo. On the second floor (3rd floor if you are from North America), we find the final three parts of his life: Arles (1888-1889), Saint-Rémy (1889-1890) and Auvers-sur-Oise (1890). This is when the illness and despair begins to show in his art, although The Yellow House (‘The Street’) (1888) is rather, well, yellow. The top floor is filled with work from the artists that influenced Van Gogh. I was so lucky to see some Monet again!

Amsterdam is an absolutely gorgeous city. The four (and taller) buildings are all breath taking. Although they look like one large building with many faces, they are actually each individual and very narrow buildings. The odd time, the top level appears to be larger than the main floor and they tilt out. It really it something!

Of course I have to mention the canals. There are tons of them! Unfortunately that is all I know. I have no idea why there are so many but I do they are filled with houseboats.
dinner? haha

What I should have done for the day, instead of walking everywhere, which was not really a problem, was rent a bike. Everyone bikes. Considering all the trams, busses and narrow streets, I don’t know why you would want to drive anyways.
somebody live here please.

Something I should comment on, is no where in Europe, so far, is it mandatory to remove the snow. All over Amsterdam there is a two to three centimetre deep layer of slush. It is partially frozen, so it is not like walking in watery snow, but it also is not dry like out Saskatoon snow. We may get a harsh cold winter, but when you throw in our dry climate, and snow removal system, we really don’t have it that bad. Plus we’re used to it haha.

On top of walking through the slush, you have to watch where you step. For one, there are trams and people everywhere (just giving you a feel for the town). Then the faint distinction between the roads and the sidewalks is this black stone that runs along every street and is dangerously slippery. It is funny to see people slipping while on the go, until you slip into a slush filled hole and lose a falafel.
Outside the Anne Frank House

probably my favorite photo
On the other side of Centrum (downtown) I found the Anne Frank house. I have never read the Diary of Anne Frank and I think I would have gotten a lot more out of the visit if I had. Regardless, it was very interesting to read what they had to read the excerpts they had posted in each room. You were kind of able to get a feel for each room. I should have bought a copy of the Diary from the bookshop.

too chilly to swim :(

The next thing I had planned was a tour of the coffee shops, organized by the Sandeman tours. I sprint walked all the way back to the tourist information center by the train station (this is when I lost a falafel) to get to the meeting place in time. I got there with close to 10 minutes to spare, I easily could have walked (and not lost a falafel). Nobody was showing up for what seemed like forever. Finally two people showed up, the guides David and Michael. We waited a while longer, all the while chatting, but nobody else showed up to take the tour. They obviously could not take just one person on the tour, but they offered to go for some tea at a near by café. Not having anything else planned for the next two hours, I accepted. So we sat and had out teas. They filled me in on the ins and outs of Amsterdam and of course, a little bit of the coffee shops themselves.

Amsterdam Centraal Station

Lots of people are deterred from Amsterdam because of its unusual laws. Unlike pretty much the rest of the world, marijuana and prostitution are legal here. Everyone has heard of the infamous Red Light District too. Now, please don’t go thinking that this is a hazy city with strippers hanging out of all the windows. I’ll have you know, all the windows have glass (and I am pretty sure it is pretty thick too, but I didn’t get that close to really check..) haha, ok, but seriously. You can legally buy weed and there really are scantily clad women standing in the windows light up by red lights trying o get you to come inside, but the city is not over run with it. In fact, lots of the Red Light businesses have closed, and I really was not that impressed by how faint the red glow was when night fell. The Red Light District is the only place you will find the girls, but there really are more bars, pubs and restaurants.
it was like a harbour.

You may have noticed earlier that I used the words “café” and “coffee shop” differently. In Amsterdam, they are not interchangeable. To add to the mix, I will throw in the bars/pubs. First of all, a café is simply a café; a place to get coffee or tea and read the paper. You can not smoke anything in a café. Being very different in Amsterdam, are the coffee shops. The coffee shops are where you can legally buy weed, drinks (ranging from a coffee to a beer, depending) and you can smoke your weed there too. The kind of funny part is that you are not allowed to smoke tobacco in the coffee shops. If you roll a joint and throw some tobacco in there, the moment you light it up, you break the law. Weird isn’t it? Finally the bars. Simply put; they’re bars. You can smoke weed there and maybe cigarettes (and etc.) but it really is left up to the owner to decide. You can smoke marijuana outside too, even right in front of the cops. They decided to treat it more as a health issue than a criminalization, leaving the police to worry only about the more serious drugs. And I guess it seems to be working.
Flower Market at night.
Half decent photo.. sorry
IN the flower market haha

I headed back to the hostel to make myself some supper (mmm pasta!) and I managed to make some friends. Two of them were a brother sister pair from Chicago and the other guy was from Valencia, Spain. All three of them had just arrived in the city. After our meals we headed out to Centrum to see what we could see, and of course, I gave them a crash course just like I am to you.

I would have to say that the funniest part of the evening was when my hands got too cold to hold a map and keep us in the right direction. The boy from Chicago was dead set on guiding us, and not wanting to burst his bubble, I let him lead us in the (wrong) direction(s) for a bit. Entertainment is entertainment right? Especially when your entertainment states “I forgot I had my compass!” and whips out his iPhone. Need a compass? There’s an app for that! Haha, it was pretty funny.
Red Light Distrcit (with a bike in front, which
is actually rather fitting for Amsterdam)
see, not THAT RED..

We finally got back (I gave in and helped a little) and the two from Chicago headed to bed. It really was not very late, maybe after 9pm, so the Spaniard and I got a tea and hung out in the “hang out area” in the hostel, trying to chat. I know nest to no Spanish and really had not considered on brushing up on it before a trip to Germany. He knew a little bit of English. Thankfully his phone had Google Translator on it, which made the rough spots less rough and somewhat hilarious. It was a good time.


  1. Your blog with the dialogue and photos makes us feel we are there.Just great.Photos with you in them always adds to the blog. What would Amsterdam look like in the summer time? Anne Franks house must have many face lifts to keep it looking so new. A blog like this should last us for more than one day. There is so much to see.

  2. It may be slushy, but I'm starting to think that winter or spring might be the best time to visit Amsterdam. We couldn't even get into the Anne Frank house when we went! The crowd outside was so huge that I only got a photo from a distance. I also wish I would have been able to go to the museums you went to. Although we did go to the wax museum, which was really cool.
    So maybe the loss of a falafel, however tragic, might be worth the lack of crowds and such.
    I'm thinking next time either fall or spring would probably be prime.

  3. Its true that although it was the holiday season, not many people were around, by people I mean tourists. WHich was great for me.
    I would love to return in the summer time thoughy. It must be a completely different city.
    I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be with the trees all green, the canals and sunshine for once..

  4. Late spring perhaps?
    Best of both worlds?